Outside the Liberal Echo Chamber

As is blindingly obvious from pretty much all of my posts on this blog, I am left of centre in my political views and extremely socially liberal. I believe in social justice, equal opportunities and a level of public ownership and think it is important to question the orthodoxy of the free market. There are alternatives and I think we should be exploring them rather than speeding towards a society where it’s party time for the 1 per cent and hell on earth for the rest.

I am not naive enough to think everyone agrees with me; the evidence is fairly clear that they do not. Otherwise we would not have our current government and The Guardian and The Independent would be Britain’s best selling newspapers rather than The Sun and The Daily Mail.  I could make some rather dumb jokes about Page Three girls wearing dungarees and DMs but that would be straight out of a Jim Davidson routine circa 1982…

I rather enjoyed reading this over the weekend – check it out:

It’s a rather fantastic article about the liberal bugbear du jour, The Daily Mail.

Or the Daily Hate Mail/Daily Fail as some wags choose to refer to it. This is rather fun too:

Yes, I could go on for ever mocking the Mail – it’s just so easy for a sophisticated metropolitan liberal like myself – *rolls eyes*. Even Louise Mensch, a Tory MP, is quoted in the New Yorker ridiculing the Mail – or rather it’s celebrity saturated/soft porn website Mail Online – now on block in this household because my husband found it so distracting. The Mail is a brain worm that eats your soul – how’s that for a mixed metaphor?

Anyway, this post is supposed to be about the trap liberals – or lefties – or whatever you want to call us, fall into of assuming that everyone with half a brain thinks the same as we do. Everyone we speak to thinks the cuts are bad, that George Osborne is a twat, that academies are wrong, that the NHS is pefect – actually I’m exaggerating, but the truth of the matter is that most of associate with people of roughly equivalent views to our own. Yes, we might meet Tories on the doorstep when we go out canvassing for our party of choice (or at family gatherings), but the people we choose to spend time with tend to echo our opinions. Life is just one long Posy Simmonds cartoon.

This liberal echo chamber – great expression; sadly I can’t claim it for myself – is compounded by the phenomenon that is social media. If you tweet, people retweet you or follow you if they like what you say, so you find yourself swimming in a warm bath of approval. On the devil’s own creation that is Facebook, people who click on links you like will appear in your feed, while those who don’t become virtually invisible (unless you go out of your way to seek them out). Therefore the people who appear on my feed are those who rant about politics in a generally left wing way and who share articles from The Guardian/petitions to stop Murdoch/save the NHS etc. I will admit that about a year ago I started to believe that EVERYONE had become politically active and that we were approaching some sort of Arab Spring style revolutionary moment. Yes, I know that is utterly insane, but I blame Facebook and the way it is cunningly programmed to make it even more addictive – after all, what is more addictive than thinking everyone thinks the same as you?

However, this weekend, I confess that I have been rather addicted to arguing – on Facebook – with someone whose views are the exact opposite of my own. Who thinks everything I say is utter toss. It’s actually extremely enjoyable – I really recommend it.

I found this person by accident – we began arguing about Ken Livingstone (he hates him) on a mutual acquaintance’s Facebook wall. I recognised the name and realised he had attended the hideously posh school I briefly attended in the late 80s. This resulted in a discussion of class, values, left versus right, private versus state education, the deficit, Tony Benn, Ken (again), the riots, austerity – you name it. It is fair to say that we have managed to agree about precisely NOTHING. Again, great fun.

So what has this exchange taught me? That I enjoy arguing? I kind of knew that already. I think it’s taught me how important it is to be aware of how easy it is to exist in a bubble – a bubble of affluence, a bubble of ignorance or just a bubble of liberalism where everyone thinks the same and just doesn’t understand why people vote Tory/read the Daily Mail/think privatising health or education is a great idea. I think the recent election of George Galloway (which I wrote about in my last post)has shown how much of the metropolitan political elite exist in a bubble, cut off from the sheer scale of poverty and anger towards the establishment that exists in a town like Bradford.

Liberals hate Galloway as much as they hate Daily Mail readers because he doesn’t accept their orthodoxies and directly addresses the fears of ordinary voters. Galloway and The Mail speak to people who feel ignored by the Westminster wonks, who feel angry about the cuts or immigration or the many other issues that have just been wiped off the political agenda.

So although it may not be as cosy outside the liberal echo chamber, I thoroughly recommend the occasional trip. Stop thinking everyone agrees with you because they really don’t. Even clever people might think your views are tripe – clever Tories also tend  to be very wealthy, which tends to explain their views rather nicely – and fail to engage with this at your peril. Also analyse why it is that people are sneering at your point of view – is it to do with class, age, sex, income or occupation? Is it a tribal thing – ie has everyone in their family held these beliefs for reasons that are now obsolete? Analysis is not the magic bullet but it will help you sharpen your arguments and look for evidence to strengthen them. None of this will happen if you remain solely within the echo chamber.

This entry was published on April 2, 2012 at 7:54 am. It’s filed under Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

2 thoughts on “Outside the Liberal Echo Chamber

  1. Phil on said:

    GREAT post. Lately I’ve been reading the Guardian’s comment sections which are the echo chamber of all echo chambers.

    As a consequence I’d estimate I’m atleast 25pc less likely to vote for anyone on the left. My god the pious, know it all snobbery. The reduction of every Tory policy to ‘evil’ and the constant referall to Tory voters as thick or evil (again).

    Some policies I’m left, some I’m right, some I’m centre. But I like the way I am addressed by the right and actively and intensly hate the pious way I’m addressed by the left. As if by disagreeing I am the boil in Satan’s rectum.

  2. For some reason I’ve been waking up listening to Radio5Live, so I know that most people don’t agree with me. At least, the people whose texts they read out. This morning someone even took issue with single diners bringing a book with them to a restaurant – they said they found it annoying (on what possible grounds?)! Like you say, there is something to be said about getting a reality check. But people who have more measured views probably don’t feel the urge to share in the same way as the impassioned. I loved that line in the New Yorker article about Britain’s print media being “beserk and shouty”. It strikes me that complexity doesn’t go tend to go down well in much of the British media.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: